Rurouni Kenshin Fan Fiction
Do You Still Have That Sword?
It is cold.
I shudder as the freezing rain penetrated what meager cover the forest canopy could provide and plunges relentlessly on my body as I hover protectively over my last shred of happiness: the one sword left to me by my father that held all the memories, hopes, and aspirations of my family. It seemed as though the inexorable, unmovable gods themselves had been touched, and deeply lamented for my losses. In the backdrop of my misery is the graceful symphony of lightning, slowly culminating into a rumbling crescendo of thunder in protest of my unwarranted plight. Despite the sympathies of the sky and the requiem of thunder and lightning, despite being huddle up next to my most precious possession, for the second time in my life, I am alone. The cold winds cut across my skin opening up wounds both old and new. But the scars of the body are inconsequential for they are quickly healed, nothing at all compared to everlasting scars of the soul.
It has been a year since I was made an orphan and inherited the Sakabatou (reversed blade sword) of my father. According to Myojin-kun who gave me the Sakabatou and is now the head master of the Kamiya Kashin Ryuu, my father was once the greatest swordsman in Japan, though I must say, his friendly demeanor belies his true skill. In the end, the only thing that could defeat my father was time. Likewise my mother was the kindest person I ever knew and her face was always graced with a smile especially when around my father. Many things have happened in that one year. Japan has begun to industrialize at an increasingly rapid rate, and in the foreseeable future, it will be on equal grounds with all the great foreign powers. But with this industrialization comes a great faction in the government that extols the advantages of colonizing the weaker, less developed countries of Asia. However, the majority of the government and citizens argue that though Japan is stronger than ever, it is still in no position to compete with the clearly superior foreigners for control over Asia. Among these people, one of the most outspoken of his views opposing imperialism was Myojin-kun.
Unfortunately, though only a minor sect of the government, the authority some of the imperialists wield is astounding. One night ago, when both Myojin-kun and Yutaro-kun, adjutant master of the Kamiya Kashin Ryuu, were both away instructing at different dojo’s a group of yakuza hired by the imperialists came to the Kamiya Dojo and burned it to the ground. I consider myself lucky because many of the boarders could not able to escape in time and was consumed by the flames and those who stood and fought the aggressors were quickly dispatched. Many who had escaped were hunted down by the yakuza and killed, with each body a message to Myojin-kun warning him not to oppose the ideals of the Imperialists.
Now I seek the confinement of the forest, hoping that they will hide me from the assassins. I have little in this world to return to; first it was no family, and now no friends. The word “revenge” constantly hovers before me, for that is all I can think about. I have no reason to live; I would sacrifice anything for the strength to vanquish all those who have wronged me. My life, my sanity, my humanity, these things all mean nothing to me now, they are just dust in the wind. * * *
As Himura Kenji huddled for shelter from the unforgiving tempers of nature, ever inquiring the mistresses of fate why she had forsaken him so, he is completely unaware of the cruel fate about to befall him.
“Hey, isn’t that one of the Kamiya Brats?”
“Yes, I remember seeing him when we torched the dojo yesterday.”
“Well it looks like us six ‘ll be doing a good deed tonight.”
“Look at him, sprawled on the ground, tattered clothes, he almost looks like a beggar and when we kill them other two rebels, this kid’ll really be a beggar with no place to return to. The way I’m seeing it is we’ll be doing ‘im a favor ‘n ending his misery right now.”
“No, you are wrong, it is I who will be doing a good deed tonight by liberating you six from your sinful lives.”
As the mysterious young man frees his sword from one mans throat he disappears without a trace, only to reappear with his sword stuck in the back of another of the assassins. Before the other four realize they have been attacked, two of their comrades had already fallen. As the remaining four and Kenji gaze with an ambivalence of both astonishment and horror at this new combatant dressed in a light blue kimono that has obviously seen the face of combat and a new dark blue hakama, the young man raises his head with a smile, unfazed by the fact that he had just killed two people. Upon closer inspection it becomes clear to the group that the sword the young man used to kill the two assassins nothing more than the bottom part of a katana that had been broken in two.
“Who the hell are you, where do you get the audacity to meddle in our affairs?”
With a grin the young man replies in a cheerful voice, “I feel no obligation to give my name to those about to leap off this mortal coil, however I do have a rather odd request for you four.”
“If you want us to spare your life, you can forget it, not after you killed two of our companions.”
Un-phased by his opponent’s remarks, the young man simply continues smiling and talking, “When you four reach the afterlife, please give my message to two of the men there. They should not be hard to find, one is the ruler of hell, and the other one spends all his time around his wife who is also dead. But I’m afraid its unlikely any of you will end up in the same place as the second man be that is it may, just be sure to tell either of them I said, ‘After several years of wandering, I have finally found my answer.’”
“HAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!” chortled one of the assassins as he bellows a nervous laugh, “I had thought you posed a serious threat to us, now I realize you are no more than a delusional fool who happened to catch us by surprise. Come brothers let us avenge our fallen. Do not fear the enemy before us; he is a maniac who wields a decrepit shard of metal.”
“Don’t call me delusional, and certainly never insult my Kikuichimonji Nurime. Ara, why is everyone always in such a hurry to die?” Sighs the young man as he sheathes his sword and assumes a batoujutsu stance with his hand slightly lower. As the four men charge him, the young man runs forward, moving faster and faster until he eventually disappears completely, the only signs of his presence are the craters left in the mud by his powerful footwork.
Within a single instant after the young man disappears, he reappears twenty meters away from the group of assassins, right next to a very mortified Kenji, and sheathes his sword. Then bodies of the four continue to charge forward despite the fact that their heads have long been released from their shoulders. As the mysterious young man watches each of the bodies finally fall down, admiring his work he whispers to himself, “Tenbu No Sai Niyoru Ken Ougi, Shutensetsu.”
Legacy of the Sakabatou (Chapter 1)
Passing of the Shakuchi (Part 1)
Within a single instant after the young man disappears, he reappears twenty meters away from the group of assassins, right next to a very mortified Kenji. The bodies of the four continue to charge forward despite the fact that their heads have long been released from their shoulders. He watches each of the moving corpses individually fall in a pool of their own blood, admiring his work, he whispers to himself, “Tenbu No Sai Niyoru Ken Ryuu Ougi, Shutensetsu.”
As he ends his brief “sermon” he produces a snow-white handkerchief from a pocket on the inside of his kimono and begins wipe the blood off his sword. “Ara! You really have grown dull, Kikuichimonji Nurimune. Five years ago you would have killed those six without needing to gorge upon their blood, perhaps it is time for me to retire you.” Sighing, he sheathes the shard of a katana.
Kenji was terrified, yet at the same time he could not help but to admire the speed and skill of this mysterious young man. Despite the beating rain, despite the sight of the massacre, despite his great sorrow, despite all of this, Kenji found the strength within himself to stand, still clutching the Sakabatou in his right hand. In a nervous, yet resolute voice Kenji inquired the young man, “Who are you, why have you come to save me? If you simply came here to indulge in the delight of killing and you seek to slay all those here, then I warn you, I will not die here! I will not die without avenging the deaths of my parents and my mother’s legacy!”
Ever smiling, the mysterious young man replies, “My name is Soujiro, Seta Soujiro. I no longer derive delight from the concept of killing and as to why I saved you; I simply felt it would be a shame for you to die without finding out your own answer. Why do you ask, did you not wish to be saved?”
Through the precipitation, Kenji could now see his savior more clearly. Soujiro was something of a slender build, it looked inconceivable that this young man could even lift a katana much less kill six people with a broken one. His hair stuck to his head, heavy with the weight of the rain and his once seemingly new hakama stuck closely to his skin. “No matter how fast he is, he’s not fast enough to dodge the rain,” Kenji mused to himself, “yet his outer innocence simply serves to belie his inner severity. This man looks just as old as Myojin-kun, yet his abilities with a katana are without a doubt far superior to Myojin-kun’s.”
Noticing Kenji’s reluctance to answer, Soujiro continued speaking, “Perhaps we should find some shelter, it is not prudent to stand in the rain too long.”
~ ~ ~
The cave was dark and damp and stank of the foul stench of the numerous feasts of vile carrion that took place there. Something had once called this place home, as was made clear by the bones of “feasts” long past strewn across the floor, now it once again serves as shelter from the unforgiving wilderness. There was not a single source of light emanating from within its dark confines. The two men had to wait for periodical flashes of lightning to see an effervescent silhouette of the other project on the jagged walls of their haven from the rain. An uncomfortable silence that was interrupted by the thunder that came after the lightning engulfed the room.
Kenji was the first to break the silence, “Thank you for rescuing me, I apologize for the way I reacted.” After a short pause, Kenji continued, “You’re very strong, I am looking for such strength, could you possibly teach me to wield a katana as you do?”
Suddenly, Soujiro’s expression became very stern; all semblances of smiling departed his face. His voiced no longer the carried the carefree attitude that Kenji had grown accustomed to. “And for what reason do you wish to gain such vile strength, a strength unique to that of a cold-blooded killer? I really do not wish to pass my technique on to the next generation. I think it best that you find it in your mind to revel in times where the heart of the swordsman fades in the face of soulless weapons.” Towards the end of his speech, Soujiro’s voice begins to trail off, as if suddenly immersed deep in thought.
“I do not care what becomes of the new era, but so long as there is injustice within this world, everyone should have the strength to oppose it, and it is because of that, the place of the sword, and the swordsman’s soul shall never fade away into nothingness. As to why I wish to learn these skills, my reasons are my own.”
“How could I teach you, if you yourself are not even sure why you wish to learn?”
Only silence followed.
“Very well, I will tell you why I wish to become stronger since you apparently will not instruct me if I do not. I have had a hard life, only a year ago, both of my parents died to an incurable illness first contracted by my father deteriorating body. In the wake of their deaths, I was left with the burden to carry on the legacy of both my father and mother. I had just begun learning the basics of swordplay while living at the Kamiya dojo when a gang of yakuza hired by a radical, yet influential, sect of the Meiji Government, the imperialists, set fire to the dojo, all the while hunting down and killing all students simply because the acting master spoke strongly against the ideals of the imperialists. You found me half dead in this remote forest because I was hiding from the thugs that burned down my home. Now I seek the power not born of normal humans, the strength of a demon, the strength to right all injustices I have had to suffer. To kill the man who taught my father the skill that caused the atrophy of his body and from this atrophy spawned an immune system unable to fend off any disease. To hunt down each and every one of those imperialists, just as they hunted down my friends. To be brief, I want to grow stronger, for it is vengeance I seek.”
Soujiro was surprised with the passion of Kenji’s speech, after taking a moment to consider Kenji’s proposal, Soujiro responded, “The Kamiya dojo, eh? Is not the Kashin-Ryuu the sword that protects? Does the Kashin style not teach its pupils to honor all life? Why do you yearn to wield the blade of a Hitokiri so?”
“I never considered myself a student of the Kashin-Ryuu, from the death of my parents to now, I can only think of one thing: how can all life be sacred if such evil yet walks the earth? I cannot accept the ideals of the Kashin-Ryuu; no, for the sake of my parents, I will not accept its ideals.”
Seeing Kenji’s determination, Soujiro responds, sighing, “The path of revenge is a lonely one, in order to walk it, you must throw away all that you have now and even still, you may not succeed. I once knew a man who knew only revenge, who attempted to bear the burdens of his soul alone. He was a great person, blinded by his sense of righteousness, yet still great. Well that man was defeated by another who saw the virtues of sharing his burden with others so that they can lend him their strength, and he can lend them his. Do not be as the first one, your blind adherence to your lust for revenge may prove to be your downfall.”
“I do not fear the repercussions of my vendetta, I am willing to give up all that I have now, though I have very little to give up, to fulfill the tenants of my just cause! To eliminate evil from this world, I will become the incarnation of evil itself!”
“I am sorry, but I cannot teach my technique to a man like you, I do not wish to ever create another Makoto Shishio. I too used to be lost like you, but a great man guided me to the paths that lead to my answer. You remind me of this man, the way you look, the way you conduct yourself, but most of all, the way that your eyes penetrate the souls of the ones it gazes upon. I will not teach you my arts of killing, however I will teach you a skill that will prove very useful later in your life. I will teach you how I accelerated to super-human speeds and disappeared from sight altogether. I will pass on to you my most prized of techniques: the Shakuchi.”
“I am grateful for this, but how do you know that I will not become the living incarnation of vengeance after learning your technique? You have no way to control how I use it.” Quipped Kenji.
“I know you will not use it to kill because the man who led me on my journey for my answer would not have.”
“I am not that man and what is this answer you keep speaking of?”
“This ‘answer’ is different for every person, in your life, you will eventually have to go on your own quest to find your own answer. I cannot tell you what yours will be, nor do I have any idea what it is. Look, the rain stopped, best to start the training now, there is more to the Shakuchi than just running a little faster.” Once again losing his seriousness, Soujiro breaks into a smile, gets up, and exits the cave, leaving a very stunned Kenji behind.
Passing of the Shakuchi (Part 2)
Standing before the waterfall, Kenji could only marvel at its aesthetic greatness. The juxtaposition of the falls was flawless; the surroundings perfectly complemented its flowing beauty. The passing rain only further accented it by granting it the strength to break through any barriers stifling its arduous path to the sea. It seemed that the waterfall had no beginning, touching the heavens with its insurmountable height. How many days would it take for one drop of water to fall to the river below? The culmination of the journey of a million drops of water combined with the song of the surrounding environs produced a harmonious symphony that dwarfed the rumbling crescendo of thunder and lightning. The rocks beneath the falls are perfectly smooth, worn away after listening to the meditation of countless generations of monks. The contrast of serenity and ferocity almost made Kenji’s troubles drift away like a leaf caught in the current. How had this haven escaped his knowledge, he who had known the city of Tokyo and all that surround it his entire life?
The Tranquility within Kenji’s mind was disrupted when Soujiro’s beckoned him back to the real world, “There will be plenty of time to admire the splendors of nature later, for now you must focus on beginning your training.”
This bitter thrust back into reality left Kenji sullen, grimly responding, “So, what is it do that you wish to teach me? I really have no interest in learning anything but kenjutsu from you, and I defiantly do not want to learn the art of ‘running away’ from you. If you will not teach me, I will be on my way, I must find some way to avenge the pains of my family.”
“In believe I made it perfectly clear that I would not teach you the art of killing and in no way is the Shakuchi merely the art of ‘running away.’ See how you clutch your sword, that worthless piece of metal that can do nothing more than to steal all happiness from a person. In this time of peace what use is there for such a weapon? I pray that you abandon these ideals soon, they are not fit for the times.”
Suddenly, the blade that Kenji had clutched so dearly to disappeared from his hands. The once ferocious thundering of the waterfall was replaced with pounding of water as Soujiro made his way up the waterfall. Soujiro’s unnatural speed clashed head-on with the flow of the falls, splitting the water and leaving behind tremendously deep craters as he ran. Upon running half way up the waterfall, he sticks the Sakabatou deep into the wall, ceases his ascent, and allows the current to carry himself back down. Emerging from the river, soaking wet, Soujiro calmly explains his actions, “There, now that foul weapon can never again be used to harm anyone, unless of course you were to learn the Shakuchi and retrieve it, I can tell you with a degree of certainty I do not intend to do that again. The Shakuchi can be quite powerful if used in a fight to penetrate your opponent’s ma-ai in an instant, but I hope that you will use it to as a means of escaping confrontation. So, shall we begin our lesson now?”
Completely dumfounded by what just transpired, a sense of amazement mixed with resignation consumed Kenji, “That sword has never been used to shed human blood. It is not a weapon, it is simply the physical manifestation of one mans life of guilt and sorrow, a man who devoted his life to the belief that the strong should protect the weak, the man who neglected his family to achieve this worthless cause. I would have no interest in retrieving such worthless pieces of junk, however, this one has a certain sentimental value with me… Very well, I will learn your little technique, but be forewarned, I don’t care who I remind you of, there is no way I will use the Shakuchi as a proponent of good and a protector of the destitute, those who are weak exist simply to serve as fodder for the strong!”
To this Soujiro only smiled, “On the outside you look like one man I once knew, but on the inside, you are so like another. Ara! Ara! If you choose to walk the path of the man who is now inside of you, I will kill you.”
“Ever smiling, eh? For one who enjoys the peace, you sure are composed when you talk about killing.”
“ And for one so obsessed with the injustices of the present, you seem to dwell in the past took much. But enough of this idle banter, lets begin the passing of the Shakuchi!”
~ ~ ~
It has been half a year since Himura Kenji decided to learn the legendary technique of the Shakuchi from Soujiro the prodigy. Kenji has mastered all the basics of the Shakuchi in an astoundingly terse period of time. What was once nothing more than extreme awkwardness between the two people evolved into mutual respect and genuine friendship. Well, about as much friendship as there can be between a master and his apprentice. Unbeknownst to Kenji, Soujiro had inadvertently begun to teach Kenji a little bit of Kenjutsu, sensing that Kenji’s soul was now filled with much less hatred than when he began, though it was evident that when he was by himself, this angst once again consumed his mind and spirit.
On this particular morning, Kenji awoke only to find Soujiro deep in thought, muttering to himself, “Now, what shall we have for breakfast today… We only have enough money for one person… Maybe I should just sneak off and buy something to eat… Yeah that’ll serve him right for eating so much.”
Before Soujiro could even finish his musings, he felt the wind of a blow nearing his neck, picking up a fallen branch and turning swiftly around, he gracefully parries Kenji’s attack. Upon the collision of the two “weapons”, Kenji immediately pulls back his branch, following up his attack with a forward thrust. Soujiro dodges this one by stepping backward, following the direction of the drive. Kenji continues forward with the thrusting attack, only to have it be knocked aside by Soujiro.
“Don’t continue forward with a thrusting attack after it’s lost its initial momentum! That blow to the sakakeisa point was sloppy, do it again!” As they continue to fight, Soujiro persists with his criticism, “That time my left side was completely open, why not exploit its lack of defense?”
“Why do you keep conspiring to eat breakfast without me?” yelled Kenji in between strikes. “I toil all day and all night, I can at least expect three meals a day, can’t I? All you ever do is sit around and talk!”
“And all you ever do is complain about your stomach! I’ll tell you what, if you can hit me, I’ll let you have all the money that we have left.”
“Sounds like a deal to me!” barely finishing his sentence, Kenji disappeared from Soujiro’s sight. This took Soujiro completely by surprise, since Kenji had never used the Shakuchi in actual combat before, and before Soujiro could fully compose himself, Kenji reappeared right in front of Soujiro, tapping him on the head with his branch.
With a sigh of resignation, Soujiro admitted in defeat, “I never thought you could do a Shakuchi in such an impromptu manner, you truly are a genius when it comes to Kenjutsu. Here you go, a breakfast well earned!”
Suddenly, a sharp old voice cackled from within the thick forest, “Well-well-well, what a touching moment between a master and an apprentice! Seta Soujiro, the young man once known as the prodigy, why have you reduced yourself to instructing the dregs of society?”